Watch this video to capture the Elkhart River District vision.

Destination: Downtown Elkhart

A Community is as vibrant as its downtown

Elkhart's Downtown Main Street has made major improvements in recent years, including sustaining more active restaurants, retail, art galleries, and market rate housing available above downtown merchants.  For such downtown development to be deemed successful, the market must respond by actively redeveloping the neighborhoods surrounding a downtown Main Street. 

In recent years, the market has not yet wildly responded. Elkhart's Main Street still has several residential and commercial units available and in need of renovation. This means we need to do more. Simultaneously, we must address the dramatically changing housing trends, while we create a desirable urban place where people of all ages want to live and play.


A Vision For Elkhart: a destination for urban living

Private and public leaders have stepped up and have so far invested over $170 million dollars that is required to proactively shift a stagnant to declining population growth trend to that of new, incremental growth for Indiana’s lead manufacturer.

Elkhart hopes to capture a portion of 40,000 commuters and new residents who will move to Elkhart and fill new housing and work opportunities within a thriving destination that includes social and recreational engagement. 

This project is called The River District. This district is expected to surge an urban vision with economic energy into expanding Elkhart's downtown to match the trends of other thriving urban environments -- and to make Main Street’s surrounding neighborhoods vibrant once again. 


The River District implementation

Since April 2017, The River District Implementation Team (RDIT) has been commissioned by the City of Elkhart to design and execute the River District project. The River District area consists of a 105-acre peninsula (see below) bounded by the St. Joseph River, Elkhart River, Main Street and Prairie/Johnson Street. 50% of the district will be under construction by 2020 and public infrastructure elements will be complete in 2021.


NEWS & facts

The River District Plan



The River District is split into "development zones" inspiring local investors and developers to lead constructing new mixed-use projects.


Development is organized in three phases ranging from one to ten years of development. Phase One is underway.



The City of Elkhart has proactively started investing in infrastructure that will build streets, utilities, parks and recreation that will support the development projects.

Public Infrastructure Investments 2018-2021

Walkable Residential Living

The City hired Zimmerman/Volk and Associates, residential market analysts, who determined that based on Elkhart's migration patterns, there is justification to develop an additional 1,000 rented units in downtown Elkhart. 40,000 people choose to work yet not live in Elkhart each day. Qualitative data also supports that Elkhart needs desirable amenities and rented housing to meet our potential. The first project has been started by Flaherty and Collins of Indianapolis with 205 units, named Stonewater at The Riverwalk.  River Point West with a supermarket and over 170 units will begin June 2019. The City of Elkhart provided funding incentives to attract these deals.

Streetscape Upgrades

Starting April 2018, the Jackson Boulevard streetscape will be improved with preparation for wide sidewalks, bike lanes, turn lanes, attractive medians, and buried utilities. This will set the stage for a safe, walkable, urban environment for future residents.

2018-2019 additional streetscape upgrades will include Elkhart Avenue, Junior Achievement Drive and Lexington Avenue as important secondary thoroughfares in the district.  

Click here to view entire streetscape design.

Parks and Riverwalk Enhancements

Lundquist Park enhancements are being planned to accommodate residents and visitors of The Riverwalk. The Riverwalk will be expanded to complete a full 1.5 mile loop around The River District. 

In addition, a Town Green will be a central outdoor gathering place on the east end of Jackson Boulevard, next to the new River Point West residential site.

Water Recreation

The US Army Corp. of Engineers requires the low flow dam be removed behind INOVA Federal Credit Union. This will consequently lower the flood plain and offer the opportunity to create water park amenities. This will includes a planned river launch site at the end of Junior Achievement Drive for water recreation such as kayaks. 


With increased activity in the River District, including the aquatics center events, parking is an important topic. RDIT wants to assure the residents, retailers, businesses, and visitors have experiences that meet their expectations. Planned solutions include increased street parking, expanded parking lots, transportation between public parking areas, and smart parking directional technologies for events.

Traffic Management

Creating a welcoming and safe walkable environment begins with well-planned traffic control. Traffic studies support that Jackson Boulevard traffic mostly splits to north and south bound routes at Johnson/Prairie -- leaving only 9,000 cars per day traveling on Jackson between Main Street and Johnson/Prairie Street. Near-term intersection improvements at Jackson/Johnson (two westbound lanes on Jackson will turn north on Johnson starting October 2019) will help better transition traffic to their north/south destinations: primarily leading traffic to Middlebury and Cassopolis. 


Jackson Boulevard will be a walkable, signature street with parking and attractive medians connecting Main and Johnson/Prairie Streets. This urban, mixed-use setting is enhanced by burying utilities to remove power lines along Jackson. Utilities on secondary streets will remain above ground.

Health, Fitness and Aquatics

Elkhart Health and Aquatics, owned by the Community Foundation of Elkhart County and Beacon Health System, will open July 2019. Sitting in the northwest corner of the district where the two rivers meet, this impressive 170,000 sq. ft., $70MM project will open in July 2019. Included will be a regional competition aquatics center, a Beacon Health and Fitness Center, and a community gathering place. The City of Elkhart provided a $2 million edit grant toward this project. The City also plans to provide a public parking lot adjacent to this property to support events and surrounding mixed-use developments.

District Maintenance and Facade Incentives

The RDIT budget includes funds to develop a proposed neighborhood association that will be charged with grounds maintenance throughout the district. Also, as afforded, funds may be available to assist existing businesses with achieving compliance to the district zoning and overlay requirements.